French police user tear gas in clashes with yellow vest protesters

French police used tear gas and water cannon as thousands of yellow vest protesters marched through Paris and other cities for a ninth straight weekend to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies.

Sporadic violence broke out during protests in Paris, Bourges, Bordeaux, Rouen, Marseille and Toulouse.

Protesters walked peacefully through central Paris from the Finance Ministry in the east of the French capital to the Arc de Triomphe in the west.

Scuffles between police and activists then broke out near the monument at the end of the march. Police used tear gas and water cannon to push back some people throwing rocks and other objects at them.

Yellow vest protesters barricade a street with burning garbage containers in Marseille (Claude Paris/PA)

French security forces equipped with armoured vehicles blocked protesters from going on to nearby Champs-Elysees Avenue. The neighbourhood was reopened to traffic later on Saturday evening.

The Interior Ministry said more than 100 people had been arrested in Paris and other French cities, including 82 who were kept in police custody, primarily for carrying potential weapons or taking part in violence.

The movement demanding wider changes to France’s economy to help struggling workers appeared to gain new momentum this weekend. The French Interior Ministry said about 32,000 people turned out for yellow vest demonstrations across France at midday.

Several thousand protesters marched in the central city of Bourges, a provincial capital with a renowned Gothic cathedral and picturesque wood-framed houses.

French authorities deployed 80,000 security forces nationwide for the anti-government protests and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner threatened tough retaliation against any who rioted.

Yellow vest protesters arm themselves with metal bars during a demonstration in Bourges (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)

Paris police deployed armoured vehicles, horses and attack dogs around the city on Saturday. Subway stations and some shops closed, notably around government buildings and in the Champs-Elysees, the avenue whose luxury boutiques have been hit by repeated rioting in past protests.

The movement for greater economic equality waned over the holidays but appears to be resurging, despite Mr Macron’s promises of billions of euros in tax relief and an upcoming “national debate” to address demonstrators’ concerns that he is expected to launch with a “letter to the French” on Monday.

The protests started in November with drivers who opposed fuel tax increases, which is why participants wear the fluorescent vests that French motorists must keep in their vehicles. But it has mushroomed into a broad-based revolt against years of shrinking purchasing power and Mr Macron’s pro-business policies.

Some yellow vest groups hope to translate that anger into votes in the European Parliament elections in May.

- Press Association

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